What does the Bible mean by saying that John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17), and its saying: he is Elijah who is to come. (Matt. 11:14). Is this metempsychosis (reincarnation)? Did the spirit of Elijah reincarnate in John?
The coming of John in the spirit of Elijah, means he came with the same style of Elijah, his manner, his method and his spirit of doing things.
1. Elijah was ascetic, and also was John the Baptist. Elijah
“was a hairy man, and wore a leather belt around his waist” (2 Kin. 1:8), and John “himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist” (Matt. 3:4). They both had the same look and same clothes.
Elijah lived in the wilderness, on Mount Carmel (1 Kin. 18:19 & 24), in a cave on Horeb, the mountain of God (1 Kin. 18:9), in an upper room (1 Kin. 17:19) or at the brook cherish (1 Kin. 1 7:3) and John the Baptist was in the wilderness (Matt. 3:1; Luke 3:2) and then beside the Jordan river. He was the voice of one crying in the wilderness (Mark 1:3).
2. Elijah started with the life of solitude and contemplation and the Lord chose him for ministry and prophecy. John also lived the life of solitude in the wilderness; then started preaching repentance.
3. Elijah was courageous and firm in the truth. He killed the prophets of Baal (1 Kin 18:40), and also said ” And fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.” (2 Kin. 1:10). John the Baptist was harsh in admonishing the sinners. He used to say, “And even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire ” (Luke 3:9).
4. Elijah rebuked king Ahab and told him, “Is that you, 0 troubler of Israel?… but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and have followed the Baals ” (1 Kin. 18:18). He also rebuked and warned him for the slaying of Naboth the Jezreelite (1 Kin. 21:20-29), and he also vowed the punishment of queen Jezebel.
John the Baptist rebuked king Herod saying, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife” (Mark 6:18).
Then John was acting with the same spirit as Elijah and his method.
Elisha requested from his teacher Elijah before he was taken away to heaven, “Let a double portion of your spirit be upon me” (1 Kin. 2:9) and it was. So when Elisha performed miracles with the same strength as Elijah and the sons of the prophets saw him they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha and they came to meet him, and bowed to the ground before him.” (2 Kin. 2:14-15).
If the matter is transmigration of souls, what is the meaning of the phrase “double portion of Elijah’s spirit”. Did Elijah have two spirits? Did his spirit reincarnate in Elisha before it was reincarnated in John?!
It was a double strength, double the power that was in Elijah, that came down upon Elisha and the same power was in John.
When the apostle said, ” endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling ” (Eph. 4:3-4), he did not mean literally that we all should have one spirit or one body but the same course, way, and style. The same meaning about the phrase, “One heart and one soul”, that was said about those who believed in the apostolic age. (Acts 4:32)
Christianity does not believe in the reincarnation of the spirits.
When the spirit leaves a body, it does not return again to this body or to any other body. If it is righteous it goes to Paradise as the spirit of the thief, but if it is evil it goes to Hades as the spirit of the rich man while Lazarus’ spirit went to Paradise.
You find reincarnation in a religion like Brahmanism or in a philosophy like Plutonism.
The Brahmans believe that the soul transmigrates from one body to another and these reincarnations represent punishment or reward for that spirit. The spirit goes on like this until it is freed to the upper space. This condition is called “Nirvana” which is reached by much asceticism.
As for Plato, he saw that the number of spirits were limited so that it was necessary for the spirits to transmigrate from one body to another.
These beliefs and religions have no relation to Christianity.